From Setúbal, we took days two and three to get our legs under us and our systems dialed. A simple as bikepacking looks, it takes a bit of organizing, re-organizing, and long hours pedaling to feel balanced and in order. Still, on the pavement, we used the predictable surface to our advantage. It was great for blasting out the miles before starting the Rota Vincentina officially.
On Day 3 we dropped into the Rota on a narrow piece of singletrack, an exciting and scary welcome to the remainder of the adventure. After only an hour, we quickly realized that our vacation goals and time constraints were not going to match the effort required to follow the Rota in its off-road entirety. A week was going to be a bit tight to ride exclusively on dirt, soak up beach time, and read a novel or three. But that’s the beauty of bikepacking (especially with an off-road set-up), you have the ability to go on any surface, at any time. Luckily, we could pop over the N120, a quiet rural highway running parallel to the route to avoid some long, grinding and dusty climbs.
By day 4 we were practically pro. We had our packing down and the unspoken agreement that beach time was a priority. This meant we had the maximize the ride time to have enough light in the day for swimming in the ocean. The trade-off was paved roads for dirt. On this day we succeeded with an early departure in anticipation of hitting the coast on our way to the town of Odeceixe. Even a long midday lunch delay in Odemira would not sink the plan. Although it was not our intent to spend three hours having a meal, it is just the way that much of Europe operates. And really, it was perfect for soaking up the Portuguese experience.